No Pity for the Dead: A Mystery of Old San Francisco

Written by Nancy Herriman
Review by Diana Tierney

This novel is Victorian-era historical fiction set in San Francisco, so I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered No Pity for the Dead. The story is intricately woven into the city’s rich history, so much so that after I finished the book I had to go look into the historical controversy of hill flattening.

Celia Davies is a nurse who operates her own women’s clinic in the post-Civil War era. A modern woman, she finds herself investigating the appearance of a dead body in the cellar of Martin and Company, a powerful real estate development group. The more she digs, the more the evidence points to Frank Hutchinson, her best friend’s husband. Meanwhile Detective Nick Greaves is trying to conduct his own investigation while maneuvering around the interfering Mrs. Davies as the ghosts from his wartime past resurface. Both are supported by a rich cast of characters that round out the novel.

What I liked most about the book was Celia Davies. She’s like Sherlock, but without all the annoying sexism. Refreshingly, the story centers on figuring out how a man died rather than romantic entanglements. There is a bit of romance, but it is in no way central to the plot. The more important relationships are those of Celia and her niece and her friendships.

Likewise, don’t let the fact that this is the second book in a series (after No Comfort for the Lost) deter you. I didn’t realize it was a second book until the third chapter, so it is fairly easy to jump into the story. There is just enough back story to help you get up to speed, but not so much that you’ll feel bogged down.